Here Are 17 Of Robert De Niro’s Best Performances

As one of the most prolific and talented actors of our time, Robert De Niro is a true master of his craft. From his various partnerships with director Martin Scorsese in some of the best films of the ’70s and ’80s, to his more recent comedic roles, including the films Silver Linings Playbook, Joy, and Dirty Grandpa, De Niro has proven that he can do it all. Here are 17 of Robert De Niro’s best performances.

The King of Comedy
Not many people appreciate Robert De Niro in his fifth Martin Scorsese film, The King of Comedy. De Niro plays Rupert Pumpkin a down and out wannabe, living with is mom, who is desperate for a big break in the entertainment industry. The issue is that Pumpkin is both socially awkward and extremely crass. Opposite comedy legend Jerry Lewis, De Niro's performance is scarily good.
New York, New York
Admittedly, New York, New York isn't Martin Scorsese's best film, but De Niro learned how to play a saxophone for his role as Jimmy Doyle so it makes up for some of the lackluster plot points. In the film, he stars opposite Liza Minnelli so that alone makes it fantastic.
Silver Linings Playbook
De Niro's portrayal of Pat Solitano, Sr. in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook reminded us all why he's such a legendary actor. As the cranky, football obsessed alpha male, Pat Sr, isn't exactly lovable, but he's a complex character whose own mental heath issues and self-loathing prevent him from really understanding his bi-polar son. Hopefully, Pat Solitano Sr. won't be the last of De Niro's classic characters.
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The Intern
In The Intern, Robert De Niro plays 70-year old widower, Ben Whittaker who gets a second outlook on life when he decides to take a position as a Senior Intern at an online fashion site. Though the film is stuffed full of life lessons as Ben bonds with his younger co-workers and the company's founder (played by Anne Hathaway), it's De Niro's dazzling charm and iconic performance, that makes The Intern the delight that it is.
Once Upon A Time In America
Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America was supposed to be 4-hours long. It may seem lengthy but when viewed that way, the audience truly understands De Niro's David 'Noodles' Aaronson. As the story unfolds over the course of three decades, De Niro is riveting as the heartbroken gangster whose recalls growing up on in the New York Jewish slums during the 1930's.
Meet the Parents
We're sure we're going to get some push back here, after all this is a post-2000 De Niro film and it's a comedy. However, his performance as former CIA Jack Byrnes is perfection. It's much lighter fare than we're used to from the actor. However, De Niro proved in Meet the Parents that he's also a master of comedy. His stare down is essentially what made the film the classic that it is.
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A Bronx Tale
1993's A Bronx Tale marked Robert De Niro's directorial debut. In this coming of age story based off of author Chazz Palminteri's memoirs, De Niro plays Lorenzo Anello, a working class man whose son gets caught up with the Italian mob during the 1960s. A Bronx Tale is not De Niro's best, after all he's not the star here,  but its still a wonderful film, one that many seasoned directors may not have been able to deliver so well.
The Untouchables
The Untouchables is a quintessential Brian De Palma film, but it's also a Robert De Niro film. Even better, De Niro stars as Prohibition crime lord Al Capone (He even gained thirty pounds for the role.) Strikingly enough, De Niro isn't actually the star of the film. The story follows Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness' the Prohibition agent after Capone. However, as always De Niro steals every single scene that he is. The Untouchables is the quintessential entertaining and violent gangster film.
Cape Fear
De Niro was never more terrifying then he was as murderer-rapist Max Cady in Cape Fear. The legendary actor is no longer casually menacing here, instead he's a deranged force of nature with his own moral code. What makes him so enticing to watch as Cady is the fact that he has total control over his body and actions, despite his murderous gaze and insane actions.
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Mean Streets
Only Robert De Niro could convincingly play a character that is also a bad liar. In Mean Streets, his portrayal of Johnny Boy steals the show from the film's main star, Harvey Keitel. De Niro's ability to play volatile and obnoxious characters works perfectly in the film and he makes Johnny Boy a ton of fun to watch.
Jackie Brown
This might seem crazy, but we often forget that Robert De Niro was even in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. After all, the film is an homage to Blaxploitation axtress Pam Grier. However, De Niro's quiet portrayal of near comatose criminal Louis is one of his greatest. It takes a ton of diligence for an actor so great to shine quietly. Still, it's Louis' final actions in the film that force the audience to remember they are watching De Niro at his best.
Admittedly, Scorsese's Casino from 1995 is strikingly similar to his 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas. In fact, many have argued that the films are basically the exact same.  Still, this doesn't stop Casino from being an exquisite film in its own right. With his portrayal of Sam "Ace" Rothstein, De Niro sheds the persona of psychopath that was continually prevalent in his earlier films. Instead, Ace is strictly a professional. What makes his performance so great, is the fact that De Niro is able to let the audience see the anger that Ace is dealing with as it bubbles just under the surface. However, he never allows himself to outwardly express it.
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The Deer Hunter
Not only does The Deer Hunter mark Meryl Streep's first major role in film, it's also one of the greatest Vietnam films of all time. Helmed by De Niro's outstanding performance as Mike, The Deer Hunter is an outstanding piece on the physiological scars of war. This 1977 film is one of De Niro's most unforgettable.
Raging Bull
Raging Bull is an enrapturing biopic about a man full of contradictions. It's a film that perfectly displays just how intense De Niro is willing to get when in character. As Jake La Motta, De Niro's monstrous portrayal of the boxer gets right into the heart of  middle-weight boxer's self-loathing. And yet, despite his horrific displays of misogyny, the actor somehow depicts a man who is the end defeated by himself.
The Godfather, Part II
To play a role, originally done by Marlon Brando is a risk in itself, but for Robert De Niro who learned learned three dialects of Sicilian to play Vito Corleone, the risk obviously payed off. Like Brando's character, De Niro's  Vito in The Godfather, Part II is calm and calculating. Though De Niro has played various gangsters over the course of his career, his portrayal of Vito stands out among them as as careful and menacingly brilliant.
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Taxi Driver
Travis Bickle is perhaps the most iconic character Robert De Niro has ever played. His obsession with "rescuing" a 12-year old prostitute (played by Jodie Foster) leads Bickle down a obsessive and murderous path. De Niro's  "You talkin' to me?" scene in Taxi Driver will probably be immortalized as a cinematic classic until the end of time.
Goodfellas is perhaps Martin Scorsese's best work, just as it's the best of Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta  and of course, Robert De Niro. As Irish gangster Jimmy Conway, De Niro is the center of this film while Liotta and Pesci's characters bounce around him. Nicholas Pileggi's novel Wiseguy, transformed for film, is the marriage of Scorsese and De Niro at its best.